Encouraging Visitor Interaction - part 2

In the previous post we said how contests are a great way of encouraging interaction from your readers and gave a few samples. In this post I want to cover the basics, so to speak, of getting your readers to put fingers to keys.

Make it easy
Don’t make your readers jump through hoops to leave a comment as they probably won’t. Make it as simple as possible and clear, i.e. no mandatory registration and to a lesser extent captchas.

Make it really really easy
Typing a comment takes a bit of work, voting in a poll or rating a post takes a click of a mouse. This is a first step to getting a reader to interact, it takes them zero effort and maybe next time they vote in a poll they’ll leave a comment about the reasoning.

Ask the question
This is probably the most effective way to get comments, simply ask the question. If your post finishes with a relevant question, there is a fair chance that some people will respond. One of the best examples I’ve seen on this was when one of my writers on CG asked for advice on which tablet PC to buy, some of the comments the post received were longer (and better written 🙂 ) than the original post. The saying “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” seems particularly true in this case.

Reward your readers
If you can offer something back to your readers for participating then all the better. Top commenter tables are becoming pretty popular on blogs, they give your most interactive readers recognition and if you have a webmaster savvy readership it can also be used to provide a nice traffic generating and SEF (search engine friendly) link.

Another way to reward web savvy readers is to remove the nofollow tag from comments (which the majority of blogging platforms adds by default nowadays). This would give your readers the benefits of SEF links in the comments that they leave but you’d have to weigh up the pros and cons to potentially having a lot of unrelated outbound links on your pages.

We’ve decided on SMM to go with one of the options previously mentioned (look to the right) as it’s only fair to reward effort (congrats and thanks to Gadget Venue, Online Opportunity and Community Building Blog for taking the top spots so far) . If you have any other suggestions or ideas on how encourage interaction and make your site a bit more sticky, then please leave a comment 🙂 .

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. Wow I didn’t realise I had been leaving so many comments!

    You have a great blog here - as long as the quality articles keep coming you will find people commenting in increasing numbers.

    Have you removed the ‘nofollow’ from comments? I could check myself but I am lazy!

    - Martin Reed

  2. I find that when a post gets a couple of comments that the rest start to come in more. It’s as though people are affraid to make that first comment. I have heard of some making fake comments to try encourage more interaction, but thats not something I have tried my self.

    Also the subscribe to comments is a good idea as you have here on SMM. I tend to subscribe to most comments I make and usually click a link in the email to come back to the site.

    • That’s a very good point about the first comment and not something I’d ever thought of, I can see fake comments working to encourage others but it does seem a bit more work than it’s worth, if a post is worth commenting on, it will get them naturally (I hope).

      • I wrote a post a couple of weeks back on that Skoda Cake Car advert. It wasnt gadget related, but I was tired and thought it was quite funny. That got a ton of interest from search engines and the comments started coming in. It didnt get that many (maybe 15 - 20) but thats the record of any other post I have done on my site. It seemed that when the first couple of comments came in then the rest just kept following.

  3. Thats an awsome idea

    I thought of it before but never tried to research it.

    and martin rel=”external nofollow” still exists in the posts comment, but not in the side bar.

    nice one Al

    • I’ve seen it on a few sites before and also thought it was a pretty cool idea and it just seemed the perfect fit combine it with this post.

  4. Are we going to see a fight for top spot on this site then?

    Maybe we should also be using better names too, such as keywords instead of real names to take advantage of the links….

    • As long as we don’t start seeing names like “Enlarge your penis” that’s fine by me. We do manually approve all visible comments so if a comment adds nothing to the post it won’t be visible for long. I must admit using keywords rather than names could look a bit spammy, I suppose it depends on what you want from the link, a bit of SE juice or readers of this site to pop on over.

  5. But wouldn’t that make you have two accounts and waste all the previous ones

    I’d be interested to see how many of the links get clicked on and how much traffic they would generate to the posters.

  6. Great work, Al! I never knew that I was on the site’s front page until you told me. This is sure to encourage a large number of visitors to leave comments for the site. Participation invokes traffic, that’s a great way of site publicity.

  7. Great post, and very helpful. I’d be interested to know what kinds of comment systems/software generate the most satisfaction and use by site viewers. I use Haloscan comment software on my site, which causes the comment to appear in a pop-up window. Is this less effective than on-page commenting software?

    Interested to hear your 2 cents.

  8. I’m another one that didn’t realize I’d been leaving so many comments. Which is the way it should be!

    I’m of two minds about using keywords instead of names for comments. On the one hand, it’s a chance to increase relevancy through the link, but I can’t see using “make money online” as my name (a keyword I’d love to improve my position for).


    • I put basic keywords in my name just so people know what my site is about. I think when people start including promotional taglines in their names, they are pushing the limits of what is acceptable and professional behaviour.

      I always tag my full name onto the end of my comments so people know who I am.

      - Martin Reed

  9. I think you have just made what is possibly the coolest way to encourage commenting: place a front page recognizer for the efforts. Making the outbound comments links work is also a big help and one I wish more sites would allow. Thanks for the excellent tips.

  10. I like the idea the only flaw i see is how does a link to a SEO Site with the text Rob
    help ? maybe a new field could be added in comments for the link title ? otherwise it seems like jay & martins approach is the only way to do things.

    • That’s actually an interesting idea, so we could have an extra field called site title which would be used as the anchor text, so it would look like
      Matt - Gadget Venue (20)

      • I like that idea quite a lot. That way the use of alternate anchor text is condoned by the site, so it doesn’t feel quite so much like you’re abusing the comment system for SEO purposes.

  11. That part about asking questions will increase comments, depends on the blog audience.

    My blog has reasonable amt. of visitors, and still have no comments. Its a tech blog, and most readers are techies, who read from the comfort of a RSS feed reader.

    Poor ME 🙁

    • Yeah different audiences work in different ways. My gadget site gets about 50 times the traffic we get here but this place gets way more comments. I still find the suggestions made here do work just to a lesser degree.

  12. I really like your threaded comments. They seem to be a great way of encouraging discussions that might otherwise be lost in the fold. I’ll have to enable that for my own blog. Thanks for all the ideas you’ve inspired in me

  13. I just noticed, I don’t think that you should autosubscribe people to the follow up comments. I personally don’t like getting a lot of them in my e-mail and prefer just to check back at the site to see what people have written

    If I really want to read the comments I’ll subscribe to the RSS.

    However when you autosubscribe often people (me) forget to unclick it.

    Just a thought

  14. I’m in the process of adding wiki type features to my site as well as reviews. That should encourage a little more interaction.

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